In the Heat of the Campaign, Government Forgets the Tourist Season

For the last four years, the government facilitated the influx of tourists by removing the visa requirements for several foreign nations during the summer months.

In order to stimulate tourism, the Berisha government in 2013 and 2014, and later the Rama government, removed visa requirements for citizens from Russia and other countries during the period June–October. In other months, these visitors would have to pay between €11 and €100 per visa.

This initiative, welcomed by the Russian embassy and the National Tourism Agency (AKT), led to an increase in Russian tourists during the holiday season.

In 2015, the government decided to remove these requirements just before the beginning of season, for a period until November 1.

After noticing the increase in tourism and the large interest of tour operators who now had drafted tourist guides for the entire country, aimed at Russian consumers, Russian ambassador Alexander Karpushin and AKT director Ardit Çollaku asked the government in 2016 to remove the visa requirements for Russian citizens on May 1. The Russian Embassy even publicly announced that the number of Russian tourists in 2016 would increase considerably because of Russia’s boycott of Turkey, one of their preferred holiday countries.

Although the 2017 tourist season has already started, but the Albanian government still didn’t pass a Decision of the Council of Ministers (VKM) that would again facilitate the removal of visa requirements for Russian tourists. Several tour operators state that they still don’t know whether this will indeed happen, keeping reservations for this summer on hold. This in turn causes financial damage to the companies and discontent among tourists.

Source of Exit affirm that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a request to the Council of Ministers, which seems to have lost itself in the electoral campaign and has forgotten to pass the VKM. The most recent meeting of the Council of Ministers on May 22 again was without Prime Minister Rama, who prefers to be campaigning. In his absence, the meeting was led by Deputy Prime Minister Niko Peleshi.

Exit tried to contact the Foreign Ministry to ask whether its request to the Council of Ministers was still on the agenda, but no one responded to repeated calls to the public contact number of the ministry.

Although the Rama government has claimed time after time that it would give an impulse to tourism, it appears that the heat of the campaign made it simply “forget” an actual measure that might accomplish that.